35 YEARS AGO IN 1984 SIMPLE MINDS RELEASED SPARKLE IN THE RAIN.
35 Years Ago in 1984 Simple Minds Realised Sparkle In The Rain .
Success didn’t come easy for Glasgow’s very own Simple Minds. It took five years and five albums before they found commercial success and critical acclaim across Europe with New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). This was the start of the rise and rise of Simple Minds, and was also the start of their stadium rock era. The story began in Glasgow, Scatland’s musical capital in April 1982.
That’s when Simple Minds released the anthemic Promised You A Miracle as the lead single from New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). It reached number eleven in the British charts. This was Simple Minds first British hit single. Soon, Promised You A Miracle took Europe by storm. This was the start of Simple Minds transformation from new wave pioneers, to stadium rock superstars.
Four months after the release of Promised You A Miracle, Glittering Prize was released as the followup. It reached number sixteen in Britain, and reached the top twenty in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden. Word was spreading about Simple Minds’ new sound. This was just in time for the release of New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84).
Released on 13th September 1982, life was never going to be the same for Simple Minds after the release of New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). It reached number three in Britain, and was certified platinum. From Australia and New Zealand, to France, Holland and Sweden, right through to America and Canada, New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84) sold well. In Canada, it was certified gold. For Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill, Michael MacNeil and Derek Forbes, it was a New Gold Dream come true. The only disappointment was when one of Simple Minds’ most anthemic tracks, Someone Somewhere in Summertime, stalled at number thirty-six in Britain. Apart from that, things had never been better for Simple Minds.
Or so it seemed. Simple Minds had been having problems with drummers on New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). The problem was, they didn’t have one. So, they’d used two drummers for the recording of New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). Mike Ogletree played on four tracks, while Mel Gaynor played on the other six tracks. However, it was Mike Ogletree that headed out on tour with Simple Minds, to tour New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). Mike played on the first leg of the tour, and left in November 1982 to form Fiction Factory. That presented a problem for Simple Minds.
The answer to their problem was Mel Gaynor. He’d played on New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). So, he knew many of the songs. Mel Gaynor was brought onboard, and became Simple Minds’ first non-Scottish member. However, Mel Gaynor’s drumming would prove a crucial part of Simple Minds future sound and success.
During the summer of 1983, Simple Minds played a series of high profile concerts. Many were in large stadiums, in front of fifty thousand people. This was no place for shrinking violets. So, Simple Minds cranked up the volume and went for it. Little did anyone realise, that Simple Minds were now bona fide stadium rockers.
One new song epitomised Simple Minds’ new sound… Waterfront. With its pulsating bass line, thunderous drums, and Jim’s strutting, preening vocal, Simple Minds literally swaggered their way through what was their latest anthem. This raised a few eyebrows. Were Simple Minds in the process of reinventing themselves?
That proved to be the case. The story began in September 1983 at Monnow Valley Studio in Rockfield, and At The Town House in London. That’s where work began on Simple Minds’ sixth album Sparkle In The Rain which was recorded over two months in 1983.
When Simple Minds arrived at Monnow Valley Studio, in Rockfield they had already recorded demos for six tracks at The Chapel studio in Lincolnshire. Other musical ideas had been recorded at Nomis Studios, London. So, when producer Steve Lillywhite arrived at Monnow Valley Studio, some of the hard work had already began. That, however, was only the starting point.
For the next three weeks, Steve Lillywhite and Simple Minds took their original recordings, and reshaped them. The early recordings were the genesis of the finished songs. Some recordings featured just Simple Minds’ new rhythm section. However, quickly, Mel Gaynor was proving to be an invaluable member of Simple Minds. He slotted seamlessly into Simple Minds’ rhythm section alongside bassist Derek Forbes and guitarist Charlie Burchill. Mick MacNeil played keyboards, and Simple Minds’ charismatic frontman, Jim Kerr took charge of lead vocals. This was the lineup of Simple Minds that transformed the demos into songs. Together, Simple Minds’ new lineup began transforming Simple Minds’ demos into fully fledged songs. It took just three weeks. After that, Simple Minds were on the move again.
Their new home was Nomis Studios, London. That’s where producer Steve Lillywhite encouraged Simple Minds to complete the tracks. This meant vocalist Jim Kerr had to write the lyrics to their nine new tracks. To do this, Jim Kerr sought inspiration. Sometimes it came when he heard Charlie Burchill play guitar, other times when Mick MacNeil was playing keyboards. Soon, the lyrics for the nine tracks were completed, and ready to be recorded. The other track Simple Minds recorded, was a cover of Lou Reed’s Street Hassle. After two months, the reinvention of Simple Minds was almost complete. All that was left was for producer Steve Lillywhite to add his Midas touch to a couple of tracks. Only then, would Sparkle In The Rain be ready for release.
Before the release of Sparkle In The Rain, Waterfront was released as the lead single on 4th November 1983. It reached number thirteen in Britain, and was a hit across the world. So was Speed Your Love To Me, which was released on 9th January 1984. Strangely, this stadium rocker only reached number twenty in Britain. However, at least it gave Simple Minds a taste of the direction their music was heading.
Nearly four months after Sparkle In The Rain was completed, it was ready for release on 6th February 1984. However, before the release of Sparkle In The Rain, critics had their say. Collectively, Simple Minds held their breath. How would critics respond to Simple Minds turning their back on the new wave sound of New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). Mostly, Sparkle In The Rain was well received. The forever contrarian Rolling Stone and N.M.E. weren’t so sure of Sparkle In The Rain. They gave Sparkle In The Rain mixed reviews. This didn’t matter though.
When Sparkle In The Rain was released, on 6th February 1984, it soared up the British charts to number one, resulting in another platinum disc for Simple Minds. Across the Atlantic, Sparkle In The Rain was became Simple Minds most successful album, reaching number sixty-four in the US Billboard 200. That however, wasn’t the end of the commercial success.
Just like New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84), Sparkle In The Rain was a hit across the world. In Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland, Sparkle In The Rain reached the top twenty. Sparkle In The Rain was was certified gold in Canada and Germany. The reinvention of Simple Minds transformed their fortunes. They were now superstar stadium rockers, who were rubbing shoulders with the great and good of music. The album that transformed their career was Sparkle In The Rain, which I’ll tell you about.
Up On The Catwalk opens Sparkle In The Rain. It’s the first of the stadium rock anthems on Sparkle In The Rain. From the moment Mel Gaynor counts the band in, Simple Minds burst into life. Thunderous, jubilant drums and a pounding,sometimes ethereal and elegiac piano are at the heart of the arrangement. Other parts including Charlie’s guitar and Derek’s bass can be heard, but they’re neither as prominent nor important. The track could be stripped down to just the drums, piano and Jim’s swaggering vocal and still work. It would still be an hands in the air eighties anthem, that’s guaranteed to bring memories flooding back.
As soon as Book Of Brilliant Things unfolds, Mick’s keyboards and Mel’s drums go toe-to-toe. They’re joined by Charlie’s machine gun guitar. Jim vamps, clicking his fingers, as if encouraging Simple Minds to greater heights. What follows is the first of the songs with religious references. Jim Kerr is transformed into a street preacher, giving thanks for The Bible, his “Book Of Brilliant.” Joyously, he gives thanks for what it’s given. Despite that, he’s still the gallus, strutting stadium rocker. The rest of Simple Minds are at their tightest, hard rocking best. They never miss a beat, as their leader encourages them to even greater heights.
There’s no end of anthems on Sparkle In The Rain. Speed Your Love To Me is just the latest. It evolved out of hours of jamming, and eventually, fell into place. It’s one of Simple Minds’ finest hours. Again, Simple Minds burst into life, carrying the listener in their wake. Simple Minds’ rhythm section power the arrangement along, while Charlie unleashes blistering, searing guitars. They’ve got the same sound as Big Country. Charlie stabs at his keyboards. Later, his crystalline keyboards help carry Jim’s needy, hopeful vocal along on this irresistible anthem.
The pulsating, hypnotic bass line as Waterfront unfolds is unmistakable. Then Simple Minds literally come crashing in. Their rhythm section, blistering guitars and keyboards unite, providing the backdrop for Jim’s vocal. When it enters, he paints pictures, pictures of Glasgow, late at night, after its heart was ripped out. Soon, memories of the once thriving industrial city come flooding back. Jim sounds angry and frustrated. So he should be. It’s his city, our city. With the rest of Simple Minds he vents his anger and frustration at those who tore the heart and soul out of a great city.
Simple Minds drop the tempo on East At Easter. Jim wrote some of the lyrics as the task force was setting sail for the Falklands. ironically, just Sparkle In The Rain was reissued, the task force sets sail for the Falklands again. Other lyrics Jim wrote after watching a documentary about Lebanon. They inspire Jim to deliver an impassioned vocal. Meanwhile, Mick’s soaring, crystalline synths and Derek’s pulsating bass play an important part in the arrangement. So do Mel’s drums, which help power the arrangement along to its wistful crescendo.
Lou Reed’s Street Hassle was originally, the opening track on side two of the vinyl edition of Sparkle In The Rain. With side one chock full of anthems, many people ignored side two. Those that got that far, often found side two something of comedown. There’s a sense of drama as the arrangement unfolds. It comes courtesy of Mick’s string synths. Soon, Street Hassle skips along to the sound of Mel’s drums. Jim’s vocal is understated, but sometimes dramatic. Washes of guitar and string synths provide a backdrop. Then just after two minutes, Simple Minds kick loose. Feeding off Mick’s synth riff, searing, blistering guitars soar above the arrangement and strings dance, as Lou Reed’s Street Hassle is given a makeover by Simple Minds.
As Simple Mind’s rhythm section and keyboards combine White Hot Day bursts into life. Jim delivers a vocal powerhouse. Not to be undone, Charlie unleashes some of his best guitar riffs. Soon, the glisten and combine perfectly with the melodic nature of Mick’s synths. By then, things look like falling into place. However, before long Steve Lillywhite’s arrangement seems to struggle. As a result, the song fails to flow. It’s a fragmented, stop start performance, where Simple Minds try their best, but can’t quite rescue the situation. Even Jim Kerr agrees that the arrangement wasn’t the best, and that’s why he’s been reluctant to play the song live.
Some of the lyrics to ”C” Moon Cry Like A Baby came to Jim when he was on tour. He was standing on the balcony of a hotel, staring in bewilderment at the beauty in front of him. It was then he wondered how he got from the South Side of Glasgow to where he was?Chiming, chirping guitars, eighties drums and crystalline keyboards are joined by retro synths. It’s a song whose roots sonically, are in the early eighties. As Mel’s mesmeric drums provide the heartbeat, Jim delivers a a punchy, impassioned vocal. He voices his deepest fears. After this cathartic outpouring, Jim still believes that: “love can conquer all,” on this captivating track where we hear two sides to Simple Minds. The hard edgy sound of the arrangement, is very different from Jim’s soul-baring vocal.
After a hesitant start, Simple Minds combine elements of punk, new wave and rock ’n’ roll on The Kick Inside Of Me. The punk influence comes courtesy of Jim’s vocal. It soon, changes and references Lou Reed. Meanwhile, the rest of Simple Minds become an old fashioned rock ’n’ roll band. Strip away the new wave, dancing string synths and Simple Minds are at their hard rocking best. At times, the track has a “live” sound. That comes during Jim’s machismo fuelled vocal, accompanied by a hard rocking Simple Minds.
Shake Off The Ghosts closes Sparkle In The Rain. It’s another track with a hesitant start. Eventually, when it finds it direction, there’s a nod to U2. Glacial synths join the rhythm section as the arrangement glides along. Charlie adds some chiming guitars to this captivating instrumental.
Ever since Simple Minds released Sparkle In The Rain in 1984, for many people, it’s been the ultimate album of two sides. Side one was full of fist pumping anthems. Then side two was something of a slow burner. There weren’t as many hook heavy songs. That however, is somewhat simplistic.
The problem with Sparkle In The Rain, is that all the anthems come early in the album. Nobody thought to breakup the flow of the album. Maybe, if some of the songs from side two had been interspersed with the anthems, then it would’ve been perceived as a more balanced album?
While the five songs on side one surpass the quality of songs on side two, side two wasn’t without its moments. Simple Minds’ reinvented Lou Reed’s Street Hassle. Then on ”C” Moon Cry Like A Baby Jim Kerr delivers a soul-baring vocal. The Kick Inside Of Me is best described as machismo fuelled, and Shake Off The Ghosts is a captivating instrumental. The only letdown is White Hot Day, which promises much, but fails to deliver. Even Jim Kerr will admit that. That’s why Jim has been reluctant to play White Hot Day live. However, it’s the only time Simple Minds go wrong on Sparkle In The Rain.
That’s pretty good going, considering Sparkle In The Rain marked the reinvention of Simple Minds. They left their electronic and new wave roots behind. Now, Simple Minds were well on their way to superstardom. There was no stopping them after Sparkle In The Rain, which was recently reissued by Universal as a double album.
Following Sparkle In The Rain, Simple Minds were bona fide stadium rock royalty. For their next four albums, Simple Minds could do wrong. From 1985s Once Upon A Time, 1989s Street Fighting Years, 1991s Real Life and 1992s Good News From The Next World, commercial success and critical acclaim were omnipresent. With every album, Simple Mind’s popularity grew. Then by 1996s Néapolis, gone were the gold discs and hit singles. The writing had been on the wall since Good News From The Next World, which was only certified gold in Britain and Germany. Simple Minds had been at the top since 1982s New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). However, one of Simple Minds’ finest albums is Sparkle In The Rain, where they reinvented themselves as a strutting, swaggering stadium rock band and went on to become one of Scotland’s most successful and enduring musical exports.
35 Years Ago in 1984 Simple Minds Realised Sparkle In The Rain .
- Posted in: Rock
- Tagged: Charlie Burchill, Derek Forbes, Jim Kerr, Mel Gaynor, Mick MacNeil, New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84), Simple Minds, Sparkle In The Rain, Steve Lillywhite